Pakistan is expected to release another batch of Afghan Taliban detainees after a trilateral summit meeting among leaders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom next month in London, The Express Tribune has learnt.
A top foreign ministry official, however, told Reuters that Islamabad would free “all Afghan Taliban prisoners” still in its detention, including the militia’s former No 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
“The remaining detainees, we are coordinating, and they will be released subsequently,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told a news conference in Abu Dhabi. Asked if Mullah Baradar would be among those to be released, he said: “The aim is to release all,” without elaborating further.
Jilani was speaking after meeting the acting US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, David Pearce, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin at the Afghan Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Luddin told reporters the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “security and political dimensions of bilateral relationships” between the three countries. He said the peace process had gained momentum in recent weeks with the release of some Taliban detainees by Pakistan, preparations by the Afghan Taliban movement to open a political office in Doha, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington.
“Steps have been taken forward in an environment of cooperation and shared concerns … 2013 is a very crucial year and we agreed we need to maintain the momentum,” he said.
“2013 will see concrete outcomes in the peace process.”
Pakistan has already released some mid-ranking former Taliban cadres at the request of Afghan government. The release followed two high-profile visits by top Afghan peace interlocutor Salahuddin Rabbani and Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul in November last year.
A security official told The Express Tribune that the two-day London summit, scheduled to open on February 6, will discuss the fledgling Afghan peace process. “The London summit will be a follow-up of the New York summit of September 2012,” he added.
“President Asif Ali Zardari, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will review the progress that has been made during the last three months through their joint efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan and in the region,” the official said who did not wish to be named.
With British mediation, Pakistan and Afghanistan have already agreed to resolve their differences and to work for peace, stability and socio-economic development in the region.
“This summit will reaffirm the commitments made by President Zardari and his Afghan counterpart in New York. We are hoping for a positive outcome of the summit,” said the official, adding that international forces need to work together to “prepare a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan before the withdrawal of US-led troops in 2014.”
Pakistan’s role in facilitating an intra-Afghan dialogue will also figure prominently in the upcoming summit.
According to a handout from Pakistan’s Foreign Office, following the New York summit Premier Cameron had reiterated his government’s commitment “to support Afghanistan and Pakistan in working out solutions for peace and stability in the region and in their quest for socio-economic development of their people.”
(With additional input
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2013.